Saturday, July 07, 2018

Sermon: A Declaration of Interdependence

A Declaration of Interdependence

This Wednesday we celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence 242 years ago. And I sometimes wonder if that founding document of our country is a little like the book of Genesis—most people don’t read past the first few lines, or in the case of the Declaration, the 2nd paragraph…
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--
          And then it goes on, outlining 27 grievances against Great Britain and King George (as Lutherans anything that doesn’t break 95 is child’s play, but Jefferson tried)… still, 27 reasons to insist upon independence…
the founders knew, as we seem not to today, that there was innately an obligation to explain ourselves to the rest of the world…
separation is a last resort,
splitting up an unwelcome action…
          We don’t always get that—it is easy to hear Independence, and assume it is innately good, that freedom from any obligation, responsibility, or relationship
is the natural order,
is the highest good,
is, I would even say, holy.
Yes, it is easy, as an American Christian, to idolize Independence even as our scriptures
Declare Inter-dependence.

          The siren song of independence disfigures our story as people of God…
          Imagine an independent minded Ezekiel—he is told to go to a rebellious nation,
 impudent and stubborn…
his response would simply be:
… “nope.”
He’d walk away from his calling from God, because it didn’t suit his fancy.
He’d say, “I’m out!” and be done with it and them and God.
          Or think of those people Paul is mocking in 2nd Corinthians chapters 11-13, sometimes called “Paul’s Fool Speech.”
He’s seen these Christians preaching:
-a message of power and self-promotion,
-a message that they alone have ascended to the highest heavens
-and they alone have touched the face of God and have come home to brag about it.
-They brag about their independence,
that they have cultivated their own virtue and it has grown into an armor impervious against any assault,
or any connection to their fellow Christians, or perhaps even to God!

          Or think of the rap Jesus has in his home town… everyone is disappointed because…
they know him
they know who he is connected to…
they know his relatives…
he didn’t show up out of no where, no past and no future like some Gun Slinger in a Western.
          Or take the novel The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby, the self-made man with no past who showed up in West Egg was exciting and intriguing,
his previous identity, James Gatz, the college drop out janitor from North Dakota—not so much…
 the only real difference between the two was that strange something
-radical independence,
-being sui generis
-completely unique…
that’s what they wanted of Jesus.
          Or think of the debunked science of Spontaneous Generation—believed to be hard proven fact from the time of Aristotle until the 1860’s…
it was assumed creatures like Eels and maggots, and even mice,
simply came into existence
—no parents
—independent of any predecessor…
          That’s what these folk in Jesus’ home town were looking for—a spontaneously generated savior… not the town’s favorite son.

          But at some point, they have to admit the truth… we all do,
it’s common ol’ Jesus
—it’s Jesus from the Block,
he’s the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon and his gaggle of sisters…
          There is a connection—Ezekiel connected with those stiff necked and stubborn people he preached to… and he is part of… he is one of!
          We have to examine that truth embedded in all of Paul’s talk of strength and weakness
—to be strong is to be self-contained, to be knit together when everything else is coming undone.
 But to be weak… to be weak is to be unraveling, to be coming undone along with everyone else…
to be interdependent with others, to not boast that everything is fine as everyone else suffers, because
in their suffering they find a savior,
in their unraveling there is then room for Jesus…
that’s worth boasting about
We are empty, yet in Christ we are full.

          Let us declare, along with Ezekiel and Jesus and the Disciples and Paul, our interdependence:
          There comes a time when dissolving band after band of connection no longer cuts it. The laws of nature and of God require that we affirm our union, one to another, we must point to the places is sacred scripture where common love, the promises of sisterhood and the bonds of brotherhood, are solidly spoken.
          We hold these truths close to our heart, that we are not separate one from another, that God our Creator has connected us and created us for relationship, vulnerability, and love.

          For only then, may we say with Ezekiel’s generation, “surely a prophet has come among us.”
          For only then, may our eyes stop looking passed our saviors siblings and see that “God Among Us” means among them as well.
          For only then, bereft of bag and bread, and billfold will we trod where our savior trod, serving our neighbor as our savior served, in the name of God.
          For only then, like Paul, may we unravel our self and allow vulnerability—isn’t vulnerability the pre-curser to love?
          For only then, can we call a thorn something more—isn’t there pain in love? Doesn’t wooing and being wooed do something to you?
          Only then, unraveling and being held together through Christ,
loving one another in the midst of it all,
that love I experience through the power of Christ made real in heartfelt feeling for those who also suffer.
          Only then, may we declare what God has already declared,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”